Unbeaten Canada gains quarterfinals

Updated: September 2, 2004, 6:55 PM ET
Associated Press

MONTREAL -- Ryan Smyth scored two goals to lead Canada to a 5-1 victory over Slovakia on Wednesday night in the World Cup of Hockey.

Canada, which beat the United States 2-1 on Tuesday night, improved to 2-0 in the tournament and is now guaranteed a home game for the quarterfinals next Wednesday in Toronto.

"It's obviously exciting when you feel like you're contributing," said Smyth. "We played a sound hockey game, now it's just a matter of getting better for the next step."

Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning had a goal and an assist while Boston Bruins center Joe Thornton and Philadelphia Flyers forward Simon Gagne also scored for Canada.

Martin Cibak scored in the third period for injury-riddled Slovakia, playing its first World Cup.

Canada played without defenseman Ed Jovanovski, who will miss the rest of the tournament with a strained right knee. Defenseman Wade Redden also left the game early in the third period with an "upper body injury" and will be evaluated on Thursday.

The Slovaks, already missing Zigmund Palffy, Michal Handzus, Peter Bondra and Ivan Majesky to injuries, got another setback on Wednesday when Montreal Canadiens forward Richard Zednik was hospitalized with food poisoning.

Slovakia made a surprise decision to start Rastislav Stana in goal instead of usual No. 1 Jan Lasak and saw him beaten twice in the first five minutes.

Thornton stripped defenseman Zdeno Chara in front of the Slovak net and scored 3:02 into the game. Smyth added his first goal when he beat Stana at 4:43, and the route was on.

"We thought we'd play without mistakes but the mistakes we made at the beginning of the game changed things," said Slovak coach Jan Filc. "Because of the excellent play of the Canadians, we couldn't score in the first two periods."<

Canada closes out round robin play on Saturday against Russia in Toronto. Slovakia plays the United States Friday night in St. Paul, Minn.

Game notes
Slovak scratches were Branislav Mezei, Ronald Petrovicky, Ladislav Cierny, Rastislav Pavlikovsky and goaltender Peter Budaj. ... Jovanovski was replaced by Scott Hannan on defense. ... Jose Theodore dressed as Canada's No. 2 goalie in place of Roberto Luongo. Jay Bouwmeester, Brenden Morrow, Kirk Maltby and Patrick Marleau were scratched.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press